WHAT IS PCOS?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common and complex endocrine disorder that affects women during their reproductive years. Raising Awareness of PCOS is super important, as knowledge is power. A huge percentage of women who have PCOS are thought to not even know that they have it and if you don’t know what you’re dealing with, how can you manage those life impacting symptoms?
As many as 1 in 10 women of reproductive age are estimated to have PCOS. However, despite these large numbers many feel totally overwhelmed, isolated and misunderstood, being left to their own devices to figure out their diagnosis on their own. Being a woman who has dealt with a both PCOS and Endometriosis, I know all too well how this can feel. If you have been diagnosed and feel like you have no idea where to begin, check out my consultation package HERE where you can get in touch to book your free discovery call with me.
It’s important to remember that it is a syndrome not a disease. PCOS is a collection of specific symptoms, unique to each individual, that all link to:
- High Androgen Levels
- Lack of ovulation
- Irregular long cycles
- High androgen levels - that's the male hormones
- Ovarian "cysts" - which are not cysts, but follicles
- Absent or irregular period
- Irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate
- Weight changes
- Difficulty losing weight
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- Excessive hair growth (hirsutism)
- Thinning hair and hair loss
- Oily skin or acne
- Mood changes
PCOS is considered the most common female endocrine disorder. The term polycystic ovary refers to an ovary that contains around twice as many fluid filled sacs or cysts than normal, located just below the surface if the ovary - these are in fact follicles. The syndrome does not mean that individuals have ovarian cysts - the 'string of pearls' shown via internal scan are follicles that become stuck as there is no dominant follicle that suppresses the others. Most woman with polycystic ovaries have symptoms of PCOS but these "cysts" don’t have to be present for woman to be diagnosed with PCOS.
Originally called the Stein-Leventhal syndrome, named after the American doctors who discovered it in 1935, it was first considered and defined as a problem of anovulation and infertility. Since its original definition in the 1930s, PCOS has undergone varying definitions, with debate and controversy surrounding the syndrome’s definition and diagnostic criteria ever since – not to mention the debate around treatment.
HOW DO I SUPPORT WOMEN WITH PCOS?
In 2020 I founded The Positive Method - The Wellness Approach to PCOS™. This 6 pillar method is a uniquely colourful and evidence based approach to improve the symptoms of PCOS. When I work with a PCOS client, I then tailored the method to the individual because we are as individual on the outside as we are on the inside - each person's case will be different. This is because we have variable drivers at play - it is not a one size fits all. My passion is to get to the root cause of what is driving an individual's case and this is done by working together over a minimum 10 week period. Once we do this - amazing things can happen. If you want to know a little more about working with me, jump HERE
WHAT CAUSES PCOS?
There is no one cause for PCOS. It's a complex combination of factors that lead to an expression of PCOS. What the research tells us is that it is thought to arise from genetic and environmental factors, with inflammation and insulin resistance at the driving seat. These factors interact to cause the features of PCOS to present themselves. And that it why PCOS responds so positively to diet and lifestyle changes.
PCOS is considered a heritable syndrome as diagnosis is prevalent within family clusters, leading to the argument that genetics is thought to be a predominant cause. This argument is supported within clinical studies, as a greater accordance of PCOS has been reported in monozygotic twins versus dizygotic twins. In a 2006 study, data from 1332 monozygotic twins and 1873 dizygotic twins, using the Rotterdam criteria, showed the resemblance in monozygotic twin sisters for PCOS was about twice as large as in dizygotic twin and other sisters.
“Univariate analyses point to strong contributions of genetic factors to the variance in PCOS. Next, a trivariate genetic analysis of oligomenorrhea, acne, and hirsutism was carried out. This analysis confirmed that the familial component in PCOS is due to genetic factors.”
Furthermore a link has been identified through genetic studies linking PCOS and disrupted insulin metabolism. This indicates that the syndrome may be the presentation of a complex genetic trait disorder.
Insulin Resistance - In the majority of PCOS cases, insulin resistance is at the heart of it due to its negative impact on our androgen levels (all those ‘male’ hormones). That is why balanced blood sugar is so important for non medical interventions for PCOS as this will see an improvement in insulin sensitivity and therefore a likely reduction in androgen levels. The NHS state that a number of women with PCOS suffer with insulin resistance, leading to higher levels of insulin, which then leads to increased production of testosterone.
Lifestyle - As the management of lifestyle factors are so fundamental when approaching the management of PCOS, it is possible that environmental factors may play a role in the cause, although lifestyle choice is better linked to the management of the syndrome. Evidence is inconclusive but studies are being conducted to investigate lifestyle as a trigger to PCOS. These triggers could be weight, smoking, diet, alcohol intake and exercise.
WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS FOR PCOS?
Women with PCOS are at higher risk of the following health concerns:
- Pregnancy complications
- Increased prevalence of early pregnancy loss
- Gestational diabetes
- Pregnancy induced hypertensive disorders
- Birth of a small for gestational age baby
- Type 2 diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance are risk factors for women with PCOS - estimated present in 40% of PCOS suffers.
The Rotterdam PCOS workshop found that women with PCOS where at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (Rotterdam).
- The NHS state an increased risk of the below conditions with a diagnosis of PCOS:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Depression and mood swings
- High blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and stroke
- Sleep apnoea
WHAT DO I FOR THE PCOS COMMUNITY?
I am currently working with Global consumer healthcare provider GlaxoSmithKline, supporting consumer research into a personalised nutrition service for PCOS sufferers. Having an opportunity like this to understand how we can better support the PCOS community on a global scale is a true privilege.
I am on the medical advisory board for the PCOSAA (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Awareness Association) and was appointed the UK Ambassador in 2020. The PCOS Awareness Association is a non for profit organisation dedicated to raising the awareness of this disorder worldwide, providing educational and support services to help people understand what the disorder is and how it can be treated. I have hosted many webinars on the topic and was honoured to have been invited onto the expert panel for the PCOS Awareness Association's international 2020 annual event to promote PCOS education and raise awareness.
It's my job as a Nutritionist who specialises in this field to make a raise awareness, all in the hope that more women who are suffering are given the chance to learn more about the condition and take a positive step towards reversing their symptoms. If you want to start your journey with me to understand and reverse your symptoms, book your free discovery call below